06/11/2011 The Politics Show East


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Here in the East: we've come to Thetford's new


academy, where the Education Secretary Michael Gove has been


paying a visit. We will be looking at his hopes for more academies


like these, and his plans for a growing number of free schools in


Apology for the loss of subtitles for 2219 seconds


Hello, and welcome to the part of the programme just for just here in


the East. I'm Etholle George, and this is the Thetford Academy's


drama studio with our audience and guests, where we will shortly be


talking about the growth of this new kind of school and the


development of free schools. Both are based on the same model,


independent of local authority control. While academies replace


existing schools, free schools are entirely new ventures. But are they


needed? Later, the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, reveals


all, but we begin with two reports - the first on this very academy in


Thetford,and the second on plans to set up a free school in Brentwood.


So, the first sense on our sheet is the site. This is Thetford Academy,


where there is a new flavour of education on the go. A close


encounter with a sherbet lemon in a year nine English lesson. This is


all about boosting pupil' descriptive powers. Thetford


Academy has grown out of two failing schools. Now, there is a


fresh start. We are looking to have an ethos of achievement. It is very


important this school succeeds. It is not just about the school, it is


about the town. It has got a lot better. I am proud, it is exciting.


The academies are funded directly from central government, not local


authorities. They are supported by sponsors and must stick to the


national curriculum in English, maths and science. 30 miles away,


the Ormiston Victory Academy in Norwich - formerly Costessey High -


is one of the most improved schools in the country. Exam results shot


up by 27% since it opened in September last year. It is


completely different. I would never have achieved what I have at the


minute, and I'm not even halfway through my GCSEs yet. Behaviour has


changed a lot. Now we can going and have a whole lesson without being


distracted. The old school was failing, it to needed special


measures. We have changed the uniform, we have improved standards.


Thetford Academy hopes to mirror that success. Plans for a new �18


million building go before planners this month. Any school with an


outstanding rating can be fast- tracked to academy status. Now,


around one-third of all secondary schools have become academies or


are in the process of doing so. Free schools and academies are


technically the same. While existing schools convert to academy


status, free schools are new start- ups. Scott Davidson is in his last


year at primary school. Next September he will start steamier --


start senior school. His parents now have to decide which one he


will attend. In Brent third, there is a choice of six. One is a new


free school being set up by parents and head teachers who want the


Church of England secondary school. There are so many church-going


families within Brent would. To have a family -- to have a school


that links closely to a church, I think it would be good for them to


know that is an acceptable value, an acceptable way for them to live


their lives. In its first year, this school will have 150 pupils,


all aged in year 11. The plan is to grow the schools are more than


1,000 pupils aged 11-18. It will be the first three school in Essex and


the only state funded Church of England free school for secondary


aged pupils in the country. should and parents be able to


choose a Church of England secondary school when they have


chosen that for their primary schools? We should be given a


choice to choose what we want for our children at a secondary


education level. There is a lot of choice at primary level. Free


schools are being heavily promoted by the Education Secretary Michael


Gove. Set up by parents, charities and other voluntary groups, how are


they different? Are they subject to local authority control? Are they


funded directly by central government? Do they have greater


freedom over the curriculum? Pre- schools also have greater freedom


over teachers' pay and conditions, the length of the school day, the


selection of pupils and how they spend their money. This school will


open here, the old school is closing because of falling student


numbers. The government pays schools about �4,000 for each pupil.


But if a school attracts fewer pupils, effectively, its budget is


cut. Head teachers say the town does not have enough students to


sustain six secondary schools. of the existence -- existing


schools could be running with vacancies. Absolutely ridiculous in


this austere period. If you lose a number of pupils, you lose may be a


teacher or two. You also lose flexibility in your curriculum


because you have not got the large numbers that allow you to offer


such a wide and varied curriculum for the remaining youngsters. So


yes the few youngsters that get into a free school may be lucky, if


that is what they deem themselves to be. But actually it is at the


expense of the youngsters that are remaining in the other schools.


What Brent would needs instead, said head teachers, is a vocational


school, with the emphasis on training for a career. They are


unhappy that the new free school will be another academic school.


wonder what it will do that is different. If one school is being


replaced by another school that is doing largely the same job, we


actually haven't moved forward. is arguments like these over


whether free schools are necessary which are causing controversy


before many of the schools are even up and running. Well, the Education


Secretary Michael Gove has been looking around this school and a


little earlier I spoke to him about academies and free schools. I began


by asking him why three schools are needed where there is already good


school provision. As far as I'm concerned, we need to be a country


which has not just good, but great in educational terms. I believe the


more school places we have, the more that encourages every school


to strive to be even better. There is overwhelming evidence that


competition drives quality up. Since Academy Schools had been


created they have consistently had better results. We also know


academics have concluded that when you have more academies, not only


did they raise standards for their own children, they also compel


other schools to do better. In every realm of life, competition is


what drives increased standards. What about the fact that free


schools are likely to deprive existing schools of funding in


areas where essentially no further places are needed? There is no


requirement to have another school. Free schools will only be created


where there is a strong amount of demand from parents for an


alternative. It is where the current education system just is


not good enough. I agree we are lucky to have a lot of good schools


in this area and across England, but we still lead to do better when


only half of children leave school with five good GCSEs. I understand


a survey said 72% of schools were citing financial gain as a reason


for transferring to become an academy. It is a way of bribing


schools to become an academy, isn't it? No, it is not bribing. It is


giving schools control over the money that the public has decided


should be spent on education. At the moment, money is wasted by town


halls on needless bureaucracy. Every academy school gets exactly


the same level of funding as his call that is not an academy. The


difference is, it is the head teacher that spans the money,


rather than the time -- rather than the town hall. But you cannot deny


that funding will move away from existing schools into the free


schools. No, I can deny that. Funding for three schools is


getting higher than ever before. We have protected schools funding.


Those schools with a high proportion of funding from poor


homes will receive additional cast -- money. If parents want to spend


their money to those these calls, they will get money. Free schools


can effectively select pupils by deciding on their catchment area.


Three schools are socially comprehensive. They cannot select.


They can suggest which their catchment area will be, and


essentially that can be a way to select certain pupils from certain


backgrounds, can it not? There are existing schools which are selected


on the basement of their catching - - catchment areas. The difference


with free schools is that free schools have the opportunity other


schools do not have, to prioritise children from poorer homes. Free


schools that have been set up so far have been set up in areas where


they explicitly target disadvantaged students and siege to


-- and seek to do more. It is allied put forward by unions


because they are afraid of reforms and do not want to be children


ahead of teachers. Where is the redress if parents have problems


with a free school? Where do they turn to? They have a choice which


they never have before. If you do not believe a school is right for


your child. If you believe the school is failing, the first thing


is complain to your head teacher, the second his complaint Ofsted,


and the third is to withdraw your child to a another school. But at


the moment you can complain to the local education authority. They are


being removed from the equation, aren't they? To I imagine if you


have children, you know the head teacher of your school. How many


people watching this programme know the leader of local education


services? Local authorities have an important part to play, but let us


not delude ourselves that people think their local laboratories are


the genuine face of accountability when it comes to schools. The


genuine face of accountability is the head teacher. They are the


individual that carries the can and they are the individual that should


have the power to make a difference. I think parents know instinctively


that if you have a problem with a child, you don't go to the local


authority, you go to the head teacher. And if it's called is not


doing a good job, you take the matter that school and put them in


another. Well, watching that interview and


here with me are Jerry Glazier, the General Secretary of the Essex


National Union of Teachers, Jeremy Rowe, the head teacher of Sir John


Lehman High School, in Beccles, Alison Thomas, who is the cabinet


member for children's services from Norfolk County Council, and


Elizabeth Truss, Conservative MP for South West Norfolk, who has


been hosting the Education Secretary's visit.


Jerry, let us start with you. Three schools will give parents more


choice, when they? Well, I think it is clear that the example shown


there, Brentwood, will do the exact opposite. There are sufficient


places to meet the needs of children in the area already. Free


schools will simply suck people out of the other schools, diminish the


ability of those schools to provide the curriculum and ultimately


result in a word provision in the area. Briefly, we heard people


saying it provides a school that is not there at the moment, a


specialist school. This is because of a history of education provision.


Primary schools were set up by the Church in the mid-19th century. If


we started from scratch, all schools would be secular. Elizabeth,


it is only a choice for some parents some of the time. What do


you think about that? I think across the board it is improving


education. You can see there are new opportunities, teachers have


the freedom to bring in the teaching staff from Canada, in this


particular case, who are really motivating students. You can just


feel the excitement. We are giving more people more opportunities. We


cannot be complacent about Britain's position. We are


currently 28th in the world for maths although we are the sixth


country in other areas. There obviously is a transition period.


The role of the local authority will change and certainly our


relationship with that academy, for example, is extremely good. We are


one of the co-sponsors, as we are for Ormiston Victory Academy as


well. So I would like to see local authorities keeping in touch with


schools. While a relationship might have changed, I would not like to


see it end. But what about the question of funding? Went money be


be directed to the new schools? Clearly, we have money coming into


the local authority at the moment, and dedicated schools run that is


going to schools. If schools are going directly and getting a


funding elsewhere, then the role of the local authority will have to


change rather than being that conduit. Jeremy, why don't you want


pre-schools in your area? Are that -- is it just sour grapes? I think


they can be good in many ways but if there is no need in the area, to


see schools been built where there is no neat in this current economic


climate, I don't think people will stand for it. People will go to the


free school if there is a need. if you double the number of


hospitals you will not double the quality of care. It is the same


with schools. Alison, what have local authority is done so wrong


that so much encouragement is now being given to schools to opt out


of council control? Well I don't begin Norfolk we have done anything


wrong. The five academies that opened in September were very


closely linked with the local authority and we continue to work


with them very closely. We saw a massive improvement in the results


this year after just one year. Students that it those GCSEs that


it only been in an academy for one academic year, the results doubled


in each of those schools. So I don't think we have done anything


wrong, I think it is about the government taking a slightly


different initiative and looking at the national picture. I can only


see -- speak for Norfolk, but I feel we are working hard with all


the available educational systems in place. Elizabeth, I want add to


that. What about this question we raced with Michael Gove about


redress, and to you turn to if you have a problem? Well I think he


made a vital point which is that the head teacher is to everybody


looks at. I think Alison Thomas is absolutely right in what she says.


The local government need to be there to enable the head teacher to


make the best possible decisions and recruit the best teachers, but


ultimately, those are the people who are accountable to parents, and


if parents are not happy with the quality of education, they need a


another school available locally that their children can go to so


those children have another chance. That is what is so important. Local


authority is an government can play a very positive role. The next


thing we will be doing today is talking about that. I want to talk


about the union view on this, Jeremy. I think Michael Gove was


wrong on redress. If they head teacher is up to no good, it is not


enough for parents to take their child that. They should be some


form of accountability there. There is potential for heads to become


fiefdoms. I thought that was a poor answer. Jeremy, do you want add


something to that? Absolutely. By the editors at the core of the


whole three schools programme. It is not good enough to say to


parents, take their child out, disrupt their education, put them


in another school. Those parents need to have a proper redress. Be


diminished role of liberal authorities means that they can no


longer do that. They have to go to the Secretary of State in Whitehall


and he's too busy to deal with individual complaints. As the lead


member of the children's services in Norfolk, if parents are


struggling with their school and they feel they need Sem address --


redress, I am still there. Education in Orphic is my


responsibility. But do you have any authority over free schools? Maybe


I don't have direct responsibility, but nevertheless I have


responsibility for all of Norfolk's children and my priority is they


all get a good education. If parents are struggling to work with


a system that they are finding perhaps make it a bit difficult to


get that redress, I am more than happy for them to contact me and


then I will assist them, and the local authority will assist them.


think the issue is we have not been good enough about dealing with poor


teaching in the past. People are complaining about the dress, but


where is the redress the generations of students who have


been failed by poor schools? This is a real opportunity for students


to get a good education and actually get battered teachers into


our schools. Jeremy, if people want these three schools, who are the


head teachers such as yourselves to try to dissuade them? Well another


point is where is the redress for voters about the government? In


terms of pre-schools, this is not self interest, I am pro free


schools, but it is economically a poor and to build its -- state that


facilities that are not needed when so much has been cut. And what


about the union point of view on wages, do have concerns as to where


this will lead? There are potential concerns there but I don't want to


go down that angle because the fundamental issues about schools of


the future is something that I do agree with - that we need to have


inspirational head teachers running schools and we need to encourage


them to be inspirational educators. Not people who then become


responsible for running businesses and get distracted by taking on a


whole raft of other responsibilities. We need to have a


profession which is properly rewarded in general, an attractive


profession so the weekend attract the best people into teaching, and


keep them there. Thank you for your time.


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